Dave Kushner of Velvet Revolver
There are a lot of wannabes in the LA music scene, but Dave Kushner has rock in his veins. A veteran of the LA rock scene, Dave's credentials are as authentic as they come. A former member of Danzig, current member of Velvet Revolver, childhood friend of Slash, and fill-in guitar player for Weezer are just a few of Dave's accomplishments. Currently Dave has started to do more TV and film work composing the theme for the FX drama "Sons of Anarchy" and several pilots. We had a chance to visit Dave at his studio in Hollywood to see what he's working on now and how he's been enjoying Sonoma Wire Works' software.
How did you get into doing music professionally?
Professionally... interesting. (laughs) Professional, I think for musicians, can be kind of vague. From my understanding, the term means getting paid to do music. I started playing in bands when I was sixteen, went to music school at eighteen, and got my first record deal at twenty. With the success of Velvet Revolver, I guess I can consider myself "professional" now. Doing the music for TV, for companies like FOX and ABC, I feel more professional.
How did Velvet Revolver come to be?
There was a benefit for Randy Castillo, who was the drummer for Ozzy's band. He had passed away and Matt Sorum had put together a benefit for him to cover his funeral expenses. He contacted Slash and Duff to play together, and he got Keith and Josh from Buckcherry to sing and play rhythm guitar. Slash, Duff, and Matt enjoyed paying together so they said "let's start a band." Eventually Josh and Keith didn't work out and at that point I was playing with Duff in another band. Duff called me and had me come down. It was the four of us and we were a band. We wrote songs and rehearsed five days a week with no income and no record deal. We went through tons of singers, got tons of tapes and CDs from people, but did not find what we were looking for. We all knew Scott Weiland who was just finishing with Stone Temple Pilots. We contacted him and he put down amazing vocals on track. We told him he was the guy and he said he was in the band... that was it!
How did you move from Velvet Revolver into doing TV Themes?
It was a total coincidence. I have a friend (Bob Thiele jr.) who is a music producer for "Sons of Anarchy." He, the bass player from Weezer, and the guitar player from Paul McCartney's band, were all having dinner one night, and he said, "You know, I've got this new show, it's kind of like the Sopranos meets the Hell's Angels. Do you guys have any ideas?" We started throwing out bands like Monster Magnet and other bands. He asked if we had any songs and I said, "I've got a million songs" jokingly. He told me to come over and write with him, so I did. The first song we wrote together ended up being the theme song. It was really easy. I had this riff that I had written with Shooter Jennings in mind, but we ended up using it for the show.
Has "Sons of Anarchy" wetted your appetite for doing film scoring?
I'd like to do all of it! Velvet Revolver was an amazing opportunity and thing to be a part of. As a kid who played in bands, that was the success you dream of having. I lived every dream I had had as a kid. The months after we parted ways with Scott, I had my first child, now I have two children, and it was motivation to focus more on the TV stuff. As you said, I got a taste with "Sons of Anarchy." I wasn't used to writing short song pieces; I'm used to thinking in terms of "verse, chorus, bridge, etc." I really enjoy the TV and film stuff because it's so different. There is no format, and if you're writing to picture, it's constantly changing. I enjoy that freedom, I enjoy being home, and I enjoy seeing my family. Velvet Revolver is supposed to start up again soon, but I'm really enjoying composing at the moment.
Could you tell us about your studio setup?
We're really lucky. In Hollywood, we have a room in a studio setup that's two stories. Bands like Earth, Wind, and Fire and Parliament Funkadelic recorded there. When I was in Danzig, I remember bands recording there all the time. There are about eight or nine musicians that rent out different rooms, and it's amazing to hear everything they're working on. It's an amazing group of musicians, and we all have access to each other's studios. Each studio is kind of setup for different things. My studio is setup for doing TV composing so I've got a couple screens, a Mac, Logic 9, ProTools 8. I've been using Logic a lot lately. My room is full of a lot of guitars and bass guitars, some amps, lots of pedals. For me, as long as you have a good mic pre and a good compressor, you can make any guitar sound good.
Recently we sent you some of our software. What do you think of it?
Yeah I don't use any of it. (laughs). No I'm kidding! You know, it's been great. It's pretty amazing because, right when I got it, I got this project to do music cues. What's so great about it, is you don't have to do much to it. It just sounds great and you don't have to worry about the BPM, the mix, etc. With DrumCore, it sounds great and you don't have to edit it much. You just throw it in there and it sounds great on its own. I've used it both ways, I've dragged audio files straight onto a stereo track and I've programmed the drums with the MIDI sets. It's just really easy to use and it sounds so real which is so hard to find nowadays. When you're doing TV stuff, you need to have real sounding drums. I also love the Discrete Drums stuff. There are so many layers and segments and you can use any parts you need. It's all separated for you. They're both great sounding products.
What are you currently working on?
We (me & my partner John O'Brien) just finished doing a pilot we had been working on for almost a month for ABC. It's a cop show called "Detroit 1-8-7" with Michael Imperioli of The Sopranos. We finished it a month ago, and we found out a few weeks ago that it got picked up for series. They bought 13 episodes that we'll start composing for. For that project, it was different, because we were full composers. For the pilot we composed a half hour's worth of music.
Where can our users find out more about you or your current projects?
They can visit davekushner.com... but I need to update it!